on stress making (you can make it a part of your life, too)


Hey, a palette! And a goat!

I’ve been in a green mood lately. Sam is actively agitating for spring these days, which- fair enough- although that seems a bit early (Punxutawney Phil apparently agrees). There’s freezing rain outside today, so I don’t think Sam’s getting his wish any time soon, but I get it. Myself, I’m pretty sure the plan for the evening includes casting on for another cowl, but hope springs eternal.

I’d promised to post a recipe for that whipped body butter on the blog late last week, and I wanted to get that up before I got too busy and it slipped my mind. I’ve been playing around with a version that eliminates the coconut oil, and I have a butter & oils order en route that I’m looking forward to using in a few experiments, but here’s the basic idea. There’s a lot of room for improvisation here- really, this is more “notes” than a recipe, but I’ve given you the bare bones, and you can play with substituting different elements once you’ve given it a trial run.


I’ve given a few jars out to testers, but we are pretty set for moisturizer for the moment in the house. I made a bunch using this recipe with nag champa oil, and then a coconut- free version with frankincense and cedarwood oils, so we are soft and smell amazing.

There’s a trick to getting the consistency right here- it’s 75% butter, 25% liquid oil. If you can keep that in mind, everything after that is just technique, experimentation, and preferences. I’ve also found that incorporating a little starch cuts down any potential greasiness, and helps with absorption, too; folks use cornstarch, as well as tapioca starch, which are both frequently used in cosmetics, but I’ve found arrowroot tends to leave a somewhat silky feeling. (Play around with it, though!) So far, I’ve been using about 1 tsp of starch for every 4 oz of product, but that’s pretty loose.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 oz cocoa butter (I prefer unrefined; there is also a deodorized version available)
  • 1 oz coconut oil (75 degree F melt point- this is what folks will find in the grocery store, but noted for soapmakers, who will be familiar with other versions)
  • 1 oz shea butter (I prefer unrefined, but there can be a scent which some people find a little strong; there’s is a deodorized version available, too)
  • 1 oz grapeseed or hempseed oil (I prefer hempseed, but grapeseed can be easier for some folks to find)
  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder (can substitute corn starch, tapioca starch)
  • 1/4- 1/2 ounce fragrance oil, depending on strength ( or 15-30 drops essential oils)
  • 1 tbsp vitamin E  or rosemary extract (to extend shelf life- note: rosemary extract is not the same as rosemary essential oil!)
  • mason jars, for storage (have several- this will double in volume during whipping)
  • hand mixer/ stand mixer
  • spatula
  • double boiler or saucepan and a large bowl
  • additional bowl for additional ingredients (I make words for a living, it shows, right?)

If you have a double boiler, awesome! If not, you can create one (called a bain-marie, and aren’t we fan-cee) using a saucepan and a glass bowl- or a metal one, but for ease-of-handling, I recommend pyrex, if available. Break up cocoa and shea butters with your fingers and combine with the coconut oil in your double boiler; place over medium heat to melt. You’ll notice that the cocoa and shea butters melt more slowly than the coconut oil- no worries, this is normal.

While the butters are melting, mix the hempseed/ grapeseed oil with the arrowroot powder. (If you don’t have any arrowroot powder, you can sub in cornstarch or tapioca starch here.) I find a whisk helpful here.

Once the coconut oil and butters have melted, remove them from the heat and mix in the grapeseed/ hempseed  oil/ arrowroot powder mixture, then transfer the bowl to the refrigerator. Leave the bowl in the fridge until the mixture becomes just barely firm; no longer liquid, but you still want to be able to stick your finger in it. I find that 20 minutes tends to do the trick at my house, but you might keep your appliances colder- or warmer!- than we do, so keep an eye on things the first time you try this. I checked on progress every five minutes or so in order to come up with that 20 minute guesstimate.

When the mixture has set, use a spatula to roughly mix in vitamin E and fragrance or essential oils. Don’t worry that it isn’t a perfect mix; you’re going to let this whip for another 10 minutes or so, and everything will incorporate beautifully during this stage.

Mix on medium- high speed for roughly ten minutes using either an electric hand mixer (a good option) or a stand mixer (even better). As far as I can tell, this might be able to be accomplished using elbow grease and a whisk if you are a complete beast in the gym but so far I don’t know anybody who has managed it. Stop periodically to scrape the edges of the bowl and check the scent- I prefer a product without a ton of fragrance to it, but you may want more than I’ve advised here, so adjust according to your preference.


It looks like frosting and smells like heaven.

You’ll know you’re done when your body butter holds a stiff peak without any convincing. It will look like a proper whipped cream, and if you scoop a spoon through it, it will hold like one, too. You can spoon your body butter into clean containers-if you do this, tap the sides to help move the product and break up any pockets of air that might form. I really like using a piping bag here- it’s easier, avoids air pockets, and gives a nice finished appearance, but there’s a learning curve and you do lose a tiny bit of product along the way (but really, hardly any).

I’ve already begun swapping out oils- I’m working some I’ve had infusing for a while now, and I just started some cacao nibs going in an argan oil carrier base that I’m really excited about (although I may pivot and turn that into a massage oil and muscle rub, coupled with some magnesium and capsaicin). I have some mango and tamanu butter I want to try this with, too, although I’m really sold on shea butter lately, my skin is ridiculously happy. My hair, too, now that I think about it- I’d heard shea butter is really good for hair, so I’ve been rubbing any extra left on my hands into my damp, post-shower hair, which I’ve been growing out since last summer- that’s a shaggy but superhealthy disaster. Anyway, my hair loves it- it’s been extra shiny, soft, and even curlier since I’ve started using the shea on it.

So that’s is what is happening in these parts, along with the painting, soap making, letter-writing, and the agitated knitting. What have you been up to lately to staycalm and centered while watching/ reading/ discussing the news? DeVos just got confirmed this afternoon; the way things are going, I’m going to have the smoothest, cleanest skin, the healthiest correspondence, more tiny paintings than any girl has ever needed, and an over-flowing gift closet by the time Spring rolls around. I’ve been sick this weekend or I’d probably be overexercising by now, to boot. Incessant making and regular doses of Calming Manatee are keeping me going, but what’s your medicine? Fill me in, friends, before I start making lip balm, because I’m already got ideas.

  One thought on “on stress making (you can make it a part of your life, too)

  1. February 7, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Re spring: 1) February 1st is Celtic first day of spring, so I am puttin my faith in that rather than that big rodent.
    2) I bought an amaryllis. I know, most people have them in December, but they are fun to watch any time.

    • February 7, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Oh, that’s a good reminder to start putting in new mulch! Our bulbs should be sending up shoots any minute now.

  2. Fara
    February 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve started stress-knitting. I am not really a knitter, but now I am knitting a large rectangle (pretty much all I can handle). I can’t see it being anything useful, ever, but it’s soothing somehow to transfer the knots in my stomach to knots in yarn, so I keep going. It might go on forever, like Tita’s blanket in “Like Water For Chocolate”.

    • February 27, 2017 at 6:57 pm

      I stress-knit all the time! Mostly just hats, but I feel this, and any knitting that you’re doing is a good thing in my book. (I learned how to knit as a stress reaction to getting married, actually, and look what that turned into- an entire lifestyle & business!)

  3. Virginia
    February 13, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    Thank you for calming manatee! I needed that today.

    • February 27, 2017 at 6:59 pm

      You’re so welcome! I actually keep Calming Manatee as a permanent link in my web browser’s bookmark bar so I can just hit that whenever I’m getting to stressed out online.

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